Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security


Following the 9/11 attacks, concerns about maritime terrorism prompted several international legal developments. These included amendments to the 1974 SOLAS Convention introducing the ISPS Code, and the Long Range Identification and Tracking of ships, with amendments to the 1958 Seafarers Identity Documents Convention also occurring. 2005 also saw the finalisation of amendments to the 1988 SUA treaties to better facilitate the interdiction of suspected terrorist vessels. Additionally, the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative has prompted critical re-thinks about the interdiction powers of States under the 1982 UN Law of the Sea Convention, and in exceptional cases, under Article 51 of the UN Charter.

This Study examines the extent to which the above international agreements are likely to succeed in enabling the prevention of contemporary post-9/11 forms of maritime terrorism. It formulates the Maritime Terrorism Threat Matrix to statistically analyse all the ways in which maritime terrorism incidents have occurred, and might occur in future. The study combines these findings with analyses of how the ISPS Code and LRIT measures have developed since their entry into force, and also examines the debate amongst international legal scholars about the legality of vessel interdictions in the post 9/11 maritime security context.

Through considering how the above international agreements might apply in practice, the Study highlights the importance of continual and rigorous application of ISPS Code security measures both by contracting governments and at operational levels within maritime industries. Whilst it identifies scope for flexible interpretations of UNCLOS (and possibly Article 51 of the UN Charter) relating to the interdiction of suspected terrorist vessels, it argues for increased ratification of the 2005 SUA Convention to reduce the scope for uncertainty and conflict. Overall the Study demonstrates that the international legal framework for preventing maritime terrorism incidents has been improved since 9/11. Going forward, it argues that instead of further reforms or new instruments, the international community’s focus should be on continually refining the prospects for the existing instruments to succeed, and outlines recommendations for how this might be achieved.